It is the kind of thought that rarely passes the lips of a member of the federal judiciary: I was wrong. But there was Richard A. Posner, one of the most distinguished judges in the land and a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, saying he was mistaken in one of the most contentious issues in American politics and jurisprudence: laws that require people to show identification before they can vote. Proponents of voter identification laws, who tend to be Republican, say the measures are necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. Opponents, who tend to be Democrats, assert that the amount of fraud at polling places is tiny, and that the burdens of the laws are enough to suppress voting, especially among poor and minority Americans. One of the landmark cases in which such requirements were affirmed, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, was decided at the Seventh Circuit in an opinion written by Judge Posner in 2007 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
In its 2013 decision in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Arizona’s proof of citizenship law for voter registration violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a stringent anti-immigration law that included provisions requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the proof of citizenship requirement, which it said violated the NVRA. Under the 1993 act, which drastically expanded voter access by allowing registration at public facilities like the DMV, those using a federal form to register to vote must affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are US citizens. Twenty-eight million people used that federal form to register to vote in 2008. Arizona’s law, the court concluded, violated the NVRA by requiring additional documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or tribal forms. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 7 percent of eligible voters “do not have ready access to the documents needed to prove citizenship.” The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling, finding that states like Arizona could not reject applicants who registered using the NVRA form. Now Arizona and Kansas—which passed a similar proof-of-citizenship law in 2011—are arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to federal elections and that those who register using the federal form cannot vote in state and local elections. The two states have sued the Election Assistance Commission and are setting up a two-tiered system of voter registration, which could disenfranchise thousands of voters and infringe on state and federal law.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said he was concerned by the proliferation of state laws tightening voter-identification requirements but believes he ruled correctly in 2008 that an Indiana voter-ID law could stand. Debate over the case was reopened last week when a federal appeals judge in Chicago repudiated his own 2007 opinion upholding the Indiana law. Judge Richard Posner wrote the 2-1 decision of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, upheld the following year. “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention,” Judge Posner writes in his new book, “Reflections on Judging.”
Editorials: Thoughts on Judge Posner’s Admission of Error on the Indiana Voter ID Law | Paul M. Smith/ACS
As the lawyer who argued the constitutional challenge to the Indiana Voter ID law in the Supreme Court in 2008, I was both fascinated and pleased to hear that Judge Richard Posner – the author of the Seventh Circuit majority opinion affirmed by the Supreme Courtin Crawford v. Marion County Elections Board – has now publicly stated that he was wrong. It is refreshing, if not unprecedented, for a jurist to admit error on such a major case. I was a little less pleased to see that he attempted to excuse his error by blaming the parties for not providing sufficient information to the court. As he put it in an interview quoted in the New York Times, “We weren’t given the information that would enable that balance to be struck between preventing fraud and protecting voters’ rights.” Really? The information provided was enough for the late Judge Terence Evans, dissenting from Judge Posner’s decision, to say quite accurately: “Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by folks believed to skew Democratic.”
The latest assault on Americans’ right to vote is coming from the states of Kansas and Arizona. Republican officials in both states have decided to ignore a key party principle — fiscal prudence — to create separate registration systems for state and federal elections. The sole purpose of the two-tiered system is to prevent as many potential Democratic voters as possible from voting in state and local elections. Faced with demographic shifts that threaten their chances at national office, Republicans are desperate to maintain their hold on state legislatures. As Missourians know all too well, legislatures can do a lot of damage. They also control congressional redistricting. Pre-filing of bills for the 2014 Missouri legislative session doesn’t begin until Dec. 1. But given that two-tiered voting comes straight out of the American Legislative Exchange Council handbook, and given that GOP legislative leaders in Missouri are spoon-fed by that right-wing organization, it would be an upset if Missouri doesn’t take up the cause next year. Be advised: Not only is two-tiered voting unfair and undemocratic, it’s also would be very complicated and expensive for local election boards to implement. Thus your tax dollars could be helping to subvert democracy.
So far the commentary on Judge Richard Posner’s expression of regret over his opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board has featured the reaction of those who object to voter photo ID requirements and now feel vindicated. This is understandable, but if Posner just got it wrong, there is only so much left to say, and he might expect credit for his candor. But Judge Posner’s explanation of Crawford is unsatisfying, and it does not really get at the problem with the approach he took in that case. One difficulty with the explanation is that it is at odds with the larger point Posner wishes to make about the requirements of sound judging. This is his point: that judges don’t possess the information or knowledge to decide cases of a technical nature. About politics, he states, they can be positively “naïve,” as the Court was in Citizens United: they “enmesh themselves deeply in the electoral process without understanding it sufficiently well to be ale to gauge the consequences of their decisions.” Richard A. Posner, Reflections on Judging 84 (2013). It is in this context that he decides to “plead guilty” to having overlooked the partisan abuses of photo ID. Id. But he adds his doubts on the same grounds about recent campaign finance decisions and about political gerrymandering which, he states, is “a practice that in conjunction with the Court’s endorsement of promiscuous campaign donations seems to have poisoned our national politics.” Id.
An appeals court has cleared the way for Palmdale’s planned Nov. 5 City Council elections to take place, reversing a lower-court injunction that would have prevented the city’s contested at-large method of voting. In July, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Mooney ruled that the Antelope Valley city’s system of electing council members violates the California Voting Rights Act and is discriminatory because representatives are chosen by the city as a whole, rather than by geographic districts. At the time of the decision, he issued an order halting voting until the receipt of further directions. But two judges in the 2nd District Court of Appeal said Tuesday voting can take place, and while the results can be counted, they cannot be certified without further consideration, citing language in Mooney’s ruling. “The certification issue remains to be decided on direct appeal,” the ruling said. “This court is prepared to decide the certification issue on a priority basis.”
Editorials: Kobach’s latest fraud – Kansas Secretary of State wants to create two-tiered system of voting | The Winfield Daily Courier
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach just can’t seem to quit tinkering with perceived voter ID and fraud issues. One would think that they are all his office deals with, though Kobach’s duties go well beyond being the chief elections officer in the state. Kobach’s latest irritant is what he sees as the difference between federal and state elections and who is allowed to vote. The two-tiered system he is proposing would let Kansans who have proved their citizenship to vote in congressional and state elections. Those who meet only federal voting standards, which do not have the voter ID requirement, could vote in federal elections but not state. Say what? That’s the Kobach way. It is a convoluted system that clearly underscores the secretary’s “my way or the highway” views of making voting a chore instead of an honor. Both Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have declared that voters who use the federal form do not have to provide ID to prove their voting rights. But Kobach turns the other way when faced with issues that conflict with his beliefs.
A fight over online voter registration in Minnesota is becoming less about whether voters should have the ability to register over the Internet and more about whether Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) has overstepped his bounds. If the measure is implemented, Minnesota would become the 15th state to allow voters to register online. Both red states and blue states have set up online registration systems. But Ritchie, who has rubbed some Republicans the wrong way by pushing for new voting rules, has to get permission from the legislature before he moves forward, members in both parties say. “We don’t have concern about the policy, frankly. Other states have implemented it. We are interested in finding ways for people to register in a convenient manner,” said state Sen. David Hann (R), the Senate Republican leader.
A state-paid ad campaign to showcase Pennsylvania’s voter photo ID law is generating controversy several weeks before the municipal election. Democratic senators called Wednesday for scrapping the “Show It” campaign, saying it only misleads and confuses voters into believing they need a photo ID to vote in the Nov. 5 election. The ads started airing on TV, radio and the Internet more than one month after a state judge ruled in August that voters won’t need to show photo ID at the polls Nov. 5 while a legal challenge continues to the 2012 law. Poll workers will be able to ask voters to show a photo ID on that day, but they can’t stop someone who lacks one from casting a vote. The ad displays a photo ID with a voice-over saying if you care about the election, then show it. As the ad wraps up, it mentions that no ID is required for this election and provides information about how to obtain a photo ID.
Ruling on constitutional challenges to the state’s Voter Identification Act by the City of Memphis and two Shelby County voters, the Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously declined to overturn the act. The act, which was passed in 2011, requires voters to present government-issued photographic identification in order to cast a ballot in state or federal elections. As originally written, the act authorized several acceptable forms of identification, one of which was a valid photographic identification card issued by an entity of the State of Tennessee. In response to the new law, the City of Memphis Public Library began issuing photographic identification cards to its patrons. Shelby County residents Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell attempted to vote in the August 2012 primary using their library cards but were turned away by election officials.
The Virginia Board of Elections has purged more than 38,000 names from its voter rolls just weeks before Election Day, despite serious concerns from local election administrators that many of those voters are still eligible to cast a ballot. The purge comes a few months after the board said it would use several databases to find voters who were now ineligible to vote, either because they had been convicted of a felony or moved out of state. But after the board sent an initial list of voters who would be purged to local election administrators, those administrators found what they said were hundreds of voters who shouldn’t be removed. On Oct. 3, the state Democratic Party filed paperwork seeking an injunction to halt the purge. But on Tuesday, the Board of Elections said it had already nixed 38,870 names from voter rolls after county registrars reviewed the initial lists. Another 11,138 eligible voters will remain active on the rolls after county registrars reviewed the state lists. And almost 7,300 will be designated “inactive,” meaning they must cast provisional ballots on Election Day, ballots that will only be counted after their eligibility is verified.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that the civil rights of 6,874 Virginians have been restored during his tenure, 1,577 since July 15, when he began automatically restoring rights for nonviolent felons on an individual basis. “I strongly believe in second chances and redemption. It is a fundamental part of the American way,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Our efforts on prisoner re-entry and the restoration of rights are working. When an individual has done their time, and paid their fines, costs, and other obligations, they deserve the opportunity to rejoin our democracy in full.” McDonnell announced in May that beginning July 15 he would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis.
Cameroon’s veteran president Paul Biya kept his grip on power on Thursday when official results showed his ruling party secured a landslide win in a Sept. 30 parliamentary vote. Biya, 80, has been in charge of the oil-producing Central African nation since 1982. His Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party won 148 of 180 seats in the National Assembly – parliament’s lower chamber – according to results published by the Supreme Court, down from the 156 seats it had in the last vote. The party already controls 86 seats in the new 100-seat Senate upper house which was created following an April election.
Bärbel Höhn stopped believing in coincidence long ago. The Green party politician says she rubbed her eyes when she first read of the large donation made by major BMW shareholders to the Christian Democratic Union, the governing party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Less than three weeks after the general election, three members of the Quandt and Klatten families transferred some 690,000 euros ($930,000) to the CDU. As is legally required of any donation over 50,000 euros, the figure was published on the German parliament’s website. The transaction was completely legal, but Höhn is outraged nevertheless, because it came just as Merkel’s government was working to protect the interests of the German auto industry at the European Union. “It does have a bitter after-taste if a major donation of 690,000 euros comes from BMW at the same time as the chancellor is doing everything she can to block a really ambitious CO2 limit for cars,” she said.
Maldives: Election official says holding Maldives presidential election on Saturday ‘becoming hopeless’ | The Washington Post
Holding the Maldives’ presidential revote on Saturday as scheduled is becoming “hopeless” because two candidates have not endorsed the register of voters as the Supreme Court mandated, the elections commissioner said Friday. Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told the Associated Press that two of the three candidates have not signed the list by the deadline set by the commission and now he is running out of time to dispatch officials and ballot papers for voters overseas. The Supreme Court annulled the results of a Sept. 7 presidential election and ordered a revote, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters’ register which was used had made-up names or listed dead people.
United Kingdom: Human rights commissioner says UK ‘should leave Council of Europe’ if it defies ruling on prisoner voting rights | theguardian.com
The UK should withdraw from the Council of Europe if it chooses to ignore pan-Europe judgments giving prisoners the right to vote, the continent’s most senior human rights official has warned. Niels Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, said British MPs could not “cherry-pick” decisions issued by the European court of human rights. His comments, published in evidence to the joint Commons and Lords parliamentary committee considering the draft voting eligibility (prisoners) bill, are likely to raise the political stakes in an already inflamed confrontation that has set British ministers at odds with the Strasbourg-based European court of human rights. The court first ruled in 2005 that a blanket ban preventing all prisoners from voting in elections was incompatible with human rights.